Des Kitchings was very fast at Wagener-Salley High School according to coach Robbie Randall.
Furman assistant coach Bobby Lamb says he's only gotten faster during his time with the Paladins. The senior flanker has used his explosive speed to help Furman to a 7-1 overall mark and a Southern Conference-leading 5-0 record entering Saturday's game at Georgia Southern.
"He's the fastest player we've ever had here at Furman," said Lamb, the Paladins' passing game coordinator. "He's an outstanding player, and definitely our big-play threat. We use him for everything, but at quarterback. He's a real weapon."
At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, Kitchings has been timed by pro scouts at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. The scouts got an eye full last week when Kitchings lit up North Carolina, hauling in seven catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. The I-AA Paladins turned backed the I-A Tar Heels 28-3.
The senior has reeled in 35 catches for 621 yards this season, good enough for fifth in the Southern Conference. His 17.7 yards per catch leads the conference.
"I'm sure he would have a lot more yards and catches in another type offense," Lamb said. "But our offense does revolve around getting him the ball. We want to utilize his speed mainly on Saturday. Georgia Southern understands his big-play capability."
With three games remaining in the 1999 regular season, Kitchings has chances to break two Furman receiving records. His 105 catches rank fifth on the all-time list, trailing leader Luther Broughton, who tallied 135. He is third in yardage with 1,671, trailing Chas Fox's 2,158 yards.
Kitchings has 10 touchdowns this season, and sparks Furman with his versatility. On occasion, Furman head coach Bobby Johnson lines Kitchings up in the backfield, where he has rushed for 225 yards on just 18 carries. Four touchdowns have come through the air, four on the ground and two via kickoff returns. Kitchings returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score against The Citadel and opened the season with a 93-yard return against Elon.
His 28.9-yard kickoff return average is on a pace to break Josh Cole's average of 27.1, and could break the conference's mark of 28.7 set by Marshall's Troy Brown, a Blackville, S.C., native who now plays with the NFL's New England Patriots. Kitchings has returned three kickoffs for scores in his career.
"He was the fastest kid we've ever had here, too," Randall said of Kitchings, who recorded 90 receptions for 1,989 yards and 24 touchdowns before graduating from Wagener-Salley in 1996. "He was just a weapon. You knew he was going to get double coverage every time. A super young man. He was as good a student as he was an athlete."
Kitchings will graduate this spring with a Bachelors degree in health and exercise science. But before pursuing a career in physical therapy, the senior hopes to fulfill the dream of playing professionally.
"It looks pretty good now," Kitchings said. "I hear a lot of things about the scouts checking me out, and it looks like with a solid season I'll have a good shot. It's been solid so far. I've still got some opportunities to break some school records.
"I think about it a lot, and I feel really good about my chances. They are realistic goals, not just dreams anymore."
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